North Carolina BBQ Sauce

North Carolina BBQ Sauce

Memorial Day found me making this simple pulled pork finishing sauce recipe which is just a fancy name for North Carolina bbq sauce. It’s amazing what apple cider vinegar, dark brown sugar and ketchup can do when combined with a little bit of hot sauce. Honestly, this Carolina vinegar bbq sauce is easily made in a squeeze bottle and is the perfect thin sauce for a pulled pork sandwich.

North Carolina BBQ Sauce

How long does Carolina BBQ Sauce keep?

This vinegar barbecue sauce keeps in the fridge for almost forever and truly is the perfect finishing sauce for any pork barbecue. A no cook sauce that packs little heat; it does have a lot of tang because of the vinegar. If you are using this for a traditional pulled pork sandwich, the idea is that this kind of sauce will cut through the richness of the pork.

Not meant to be used as a mop sauce, though it could be, the mop sauce I use contains Worcestershire sauce and vinegar. It is thinner and contains no ketchup. The dry rub ingredients are simply black pepper, brown sugar, paprika and cayenne, combine with coarse salt and rubbed over the Boston butt at least two hours in advance, which makes for one good bbq recipe.

Need a spicy kick? Don’t be afraid to add in some ground black pepper or even a pinch of red pepper flakes, though we prefer it as is. This great recipe is one I found in Bon Appetit years ago, and is one of our favorite recipes to make every summer. I think you’ll love this vinegar sauce and though it has no secret ingredient, I bet you could find a way to add your own special touch.

North Carolina BBQ Sauce

There are so many regional variations of bbq sauce and though you can find many great ones on grocery store shelves, I think you’ll agree that it doesn’t get much simpler than this. Compare this to my favorite chicken bbq sauce and you can surely see the differences between the two. I love both, but each seem to work well with what they are intended.

Making good pulled pork is easily done in three steps.

First the rub-and let this sit on the meat at least overnight in the fridge.

Second –  get your coals and mop ready. Yes, I know you can make this in a slow cooker but barbecue deserves to be made outside. There is nothing that gets your taste buds going like the aroma of smoke from the grill.

(You could also do this on a gas grill over indirect heat.)

Third is preparing this tangy sauce. Plan ahead and get ready for the weekend. This recipe should definitely be in the library of great pork recipes!

My son even showed up when the rabbit catcher sent him a text from my phone saying BBQ at 6. Apparently, the rabbit catcher thought he might not show up if he sent it from his phone. It worked and he arrived and we were happy to see him. But back to bbq. In this case I decided to go with a traditional type of sauce as a smoked pork shoulder is so rich that it doesn’t require much to bring out its flavor.

North Carolina BBQ Sauce

This is a tart sauce with some sweetness. It is drizzled on and mixed with the shreds of pork to give it flavor and moisture.  I don’t like mine quite as tart as apparently some North Carolinian’s do, so I admit to adding a bit more sugar and cutting back on the vinegar.

We grill out a lot in the summer as a swamp cooler is the only means of cooling our home. But since the swamp cooler is closer to the bedrooms, my kitchen can become quite hot to cook in. Therefore I tend to cook out-a lot!

The pulled pork recipe can be found here on the Epicurious site. It is one I’ve made since apparently, July 1999. This is a winner. And a blue ribbon one at that.

The flavor brings me back to our days of driving to Texas to visit the rabbit catcher’s parents. Along the way he knew of great small groceries or road side stands that served bbq on white sandwich bread with the sauce on the side. Hamburger dill pickles were on the side, too. The sandwich always came wrapped in waxed paper and  was handed to us with lots of cheap napkins and there was always an old splintery picnic bench, under the only tree in the area to sit at.

I could never get enough of those $1.75 sandwiches. Anywho, this recipe reminds of those sandwiches found somewhere along the old highways of Texas. If his pick up truck broke down, which it invariably did, more than it didn’t, we could always find bbq. There’s something to be said for that.

Pulled Pork Sandwich

Serve this pork on soft squishy white bread or a soft white bun with hamburger dills on the side, and a bit of chopped onion. Waxed paper optional.

I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Other good things to try:
Elote Corn in a Bowl

esquite corn in a bowl

Mexican Shrimp Cocktail

Mexican shrimp Cocktail

Real Potato Salad

Real Potato Salad

I’d Love It If You’d Follow Me On Pinterest and Pin and Share!

North Carolina BBQ Sauce

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North Carolina BBQ Sauce

North Carolina BBQ Sauce

  • Author: Abbe Odenwalder
  • Prep Time: 5 Minutes
  • Total Time: 5 Minute
  • Yield: 2 cups 1x
  • Category: Sauce
  • Cuisine: American


This vinegar based Carolina bbq sauce is the perfect finishing sauce on pulled pork. Plus it keeps forever in the fridge!



1/2 c white or apple cider vinegar
3/4 c ketchup (I use Heinz) Well, is there any other kind?
3 T brown sugar
1 t salt
1 t Tabasco
1/2 c water


Mix together in a large mixing cup and pour into a squeeze bottle.

Keywords: Carolina BBQ Sauce, pulled pork finishing sauce recipe, bbq sauce with vinegar, vinegar based bbq sauce, carolina bbq sauce recipe





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  • mjskitchen
    June 14, 2021 at 8:56 pm

    Isn’t amazing how a bite of food can bring up wonderful memories of a place, time and a meal. Love the story of the Texas BBQ sandwich. My husband’s 69th Bday is Saturday so we’re having a small get together and serving BBQ pulled pork sandwiches with coleslaw and dill pickles. YUM! He want to make the BBQ sauce so I’m sending him your recipe. Perfect timing.

  • John / Kitchen Riffs
    June 2, 2021 at 6:18 pm

    Love BBQ! Can’t get enough of the stuff. Of BBQ sauce, for that matter. Don’t often make this sort, but I do like it, a lot. So nice — thanks.

  • Abbe Odenwalder
    June 18, 2013 at 11:26 pm

    Liquid Fence? Now this will need to be checked out. This sauce doesn't have quite as much vinegar as some NC ones, but it is a great sauce. thanks for stopping by and good luck with the deer!

  • Two Healthy Kitchens
    June 17, 2013 at 1:37 pm

    We literally just returned from a North Carolina vacation last night (and yes … among many other wonderful meals, we enjoyed fabulous, vinegary-sweet pulled pork)! What perfect timing that I found this delicious recipe today! My mouth is watering already! Good luck to your rabbit catcher – I feel his pain. My own personal battle is with deer (so beautiful except when they're munching my flowers!), and I thank my lucky stars that Liquid Fence was ever invented!

  • Abbe Odenwalder
    June 6, 2013 at 9:14 pm

    You must Natalie. It's also good to keep in the fridge in a squirt bottle. Noticed the rabbit catcher squirting it on tortilla chips before he shoved them in his mouth.

  • Natalie G
    June 6, 2013 at 5:22 pm

    Yum yum that sauce reminds me of summer and BBQ's, must try it out.

  • Abbe Odenwalder
    June 5, 2013 at 7:28 pm

    Thanks, Laura. They smell so good, too! Rabbit catcher does spray with hot sauce but every time it rains, he has to do it again. I wish bunnies were the least of our problems!

  • Paula @ Vintage Kitchen Notes
    June 5, 2013 at 1:26 pm

    That rabbit story is hilarious, but not for you I know! This is a great and fast sauce, love to try it Abbe! Pulled pork has got to be one of the best things ever. And that mimosa bar a close second…!

    • Abbe Odenwalder
      June 5, 2013 at 5:02 pm

      I love pulled pork but this would also be good with smoked chicken, too. Or on those little biscuits of yours!

  • Laura Dembowski
    June 5, 2013 at 7:03 pm

    Those lilies are BEAUTIFUL! I love lilies and all flowers really. My dad sprays all of our plants with the hottest hot sauce he can find to keep all the critters away – bunnies are the least of our problems, and it works for the most part.

  • Tricia @ Saving room for dessert
    June 5, 2013 at 4:30 pm

    I love all things BBQ and the Carolina sauce sounds great. Love that your son surprised you – so sweet 🙂 You need rabbit catchers like mine. Abby & Mocha – the Jack Russell pair – are up on the possums and rabbits but I'm afraid it's not a catch and release program. They work like tag team raptors. My garden is safe. That mimosa bar looks great and so does your sandwich. Good luck on the yard list!

    • Abbe Odenwalder
      June 5, 2013 at 5:05 pm

      Tricia, i do need rabbit catchers. We have George and Freddie but they are not a good team. Freddie barks to cheer George on but he has such long hair I'm not sure he sees what he is supposed to be chasing. Freddie caught a few and ate them whole when we first got her but she appears to be too well fed, now!When is the wedding?

  • Angie Schneider
    June 5, 2013 at 9:55 am

    The barbecue sauce sounds to die for, Abbe, and it's not even loaded with sugar. I love Heinz and just bought a couple of bottles of chilli tomato sauce.

    • Abbe Odenwalder
      June 5, 2013 at 5:01 pm

      Angie, it is very good.And you are right it is not loaded with sugar the way many are. (Or corn syrup for that matter.) And remember though that the chili sauce is not the ketchup. But it is still good!

  • Abbe Odenwalder
    June 5, 2013 at 3:49 am

    There are so many rabbits they could be standing on each other's shoulders! Lettuce, flowers, you name it. Our grass looks like we had a herd of goats grazing on it. And great story about beer. Makes total sense. And we all love our beer!Thanks for filling us in!

  • Kitchen Riffs
    June 5, 2013 at 3:34 am

    I have a vision of rabbit standing on the shoulder of another rabbit to chew that hole in the fence 2 feet off the ground! Rabbits just got our entire lettuce crop. When your husband is done, tell him there's work here for him to do! Anyway, nice sauce. I love all the different sauces out there, and NC does some good ones. When it comes to a vinegar-heavy sauce, I'm torn between this and the SC mustard ones. Good thing I can have them both! Oh, and regarding beer, there's some thought that humans first turned to agriculture not for a ready source of food, but because they had discovered they could ferment grain into beer. So they started growing the stuff. And because it took awhile to grow, that's why they began to settle down rather than be so nomadic. They wanted to protect their grain so other nomads wouldn't find it, and make beer!

  • Abbe Odenwalder
    June 5, 2013 at 3:28 am

    Oh Cindela, hope you are well. Soon you will have a chance to catch up with my boy, too. It appears he is moving to Sonoma to work at a place there. We will be keeping you posted!And smiling is definiley good.

    • Cindy
      June 5, 2013 at 11:03 pm

      my dream come true!!!!!

  • Cindy
    June 5, 2013 at 3:07 am

    sounds delicious. I love reading your posts. they make me smile!

  • Abbe Odenwalder
    June 5, 2013 at 2:38 am

    Chipmunks in Indianpolis! I thought they only lived in the mountains. I have chipmunk stories, too! It is a great recipe for pulled pork, Liz.

    Biz, your sounds very authentic. But you may want to add more vinegar to yours. We did cook the pork shoulder or Boston Butt for about 6 hours, but not overnight. I'll bet his was great! If you go to the site and read the recipe it gives the rub and the mop which you definitely want to use. Then I stirred in a bit of sauce. True, we Midwesterners like our sauce!

  • ChgoJohn
    June 5, 2013 at 2:16 am

    I, too, love a vinegary barbecue sauce and have been looking for a quick and easy Carolina sauce. Thanks for ending my quest! Whenever it was, we should all be thankful that beer was discovered after barbecuing — and most other cooking forms — or we surely wouldn't be here, our ancestors having starved long, long ago. 🙂

    • Abbe Odenwalder
      June 5, 2013 at 2:41 am

      John, you may want to add more vinegar to yours but to me it is just the right balance. And beer, well my son brews his own, but I'm not sure when we'll see that again!He discovered brewing when he discovered that brew stores could sell him supplies even though he wasn't legal! Used to make it in a friend's basement and by the time we discovered that, he was quite accomplished!

  • Biz
    June 4, 2013 at 11:34 pm

    I loves me some Carolina BBQ sauce – the more vinegar the better. I'll definitely give yours a try. My grandpa was from Eastern North Carolina – his idea of pork bbq was to cook the pork shoulder overnight low and slow, remove the bones and some of the fat, chop it up with a butcher knife, then add in vinegar, Tabasco and crushed red pepper and cook it another 8 hours.

    So good! The first time I made it for my husband he asked "where is the bbq sauce?!" Love how busy you've been!

  • Liz Berg
    June 4, 2013 at 10:51 pm

    LOL about the rabbits….in our yard it's the chipmunks! Your pulled pork looks terrific….I made my first batch last summer and will have to try yours soon. Thanks for the inspiration!